The dedicated and talented chair of the Cathedral Outreach Committee, Penny Ericson, is being inducted into the Order of New Brunswick for her many accomplishments achieved during decades in this province.
Penny is a professor emeritus from the University of New Brunswick and a retired Dean of the Faculty of Nursing. She has been recognized for "outstanding achievements and leadership in improving the health, social and cultural well-being of her community and province."
Premier Blaine Higgs announced the 10 new recipients of the Order of New Brunswick during New Brunswick Day celebrations in Fredericton.
“It is with the greatest respect and admiration that I congratulate the newly appointed recipients of the Order of New Brunswick," said Higgs. "By awarding the province's highest civilian honour to individuals who use their skills and talents to serve others, we are recognizing exemplary New Brunswickers who, through their dedication and generosity, have made a real difference in the lives of people in their community and their province.”
The old adage "ask a busy person" was probably created with Penny Ericson in mind.
Aside from being a busy wife, mother and grandmother, she has successfully worn many hats in Fredericton: nursing instructor and university dean of nursing; nurturer and builder of such organizations as a research centre into family violence and a hospice for palliative care patients; long-time supporter of the arts, culture and heritage in Fredericton; advocate for housing initiatives to help the homeless and precariously housed.
Some would say that the common thread in her many and disparate activities is her leadership ability. Penny Ericson is the type of person who is always undaunted by obstacles and challenges. "It can't be done" or "we've never done that" are simply not in her vocabulary. Her approach is to swiftly size up a situation and go around, over, under or through any obstacles to achieve her stated goal. This might mean arguing her case, marshalling forces, overcoming opposition, hatching creative solutions. She always does so with shrewdness, tenacity, wit, grace and boundless energy.
It helps enormously that Penny is one of those rare people whose intelligence and charm allow her to be equally at home chatting amiably with an archbishop, a premier, a carpenter, a panhandler, a child. Her interest in people and her sincerity shine through in each conversation.
Others would say the common thread in her activities is her caring, empathetic attitude. If she spots a problem, she wants to solve it. If she sees a need, she wants to meet it. For example, she is the longtime Chair of the Outreach Committee here at the Cathedral. She has raised the congregation's awareness about the issue of poverty in our city and has rallied people there to contribute funds, food and used clothing to assist people in need.
Penny spearheaded a weekly drop-in at the church hall for people in need, but she knew it was not enough to simply hand out sandwiches and coffee. She arranged for the parish nurse, nursing students and law students to take part, knowing that the guests often needed to be put in touch with services in the city. She built community by bringing in musicians to play live music and friendly visitors to talk with guests and, more importantly, to listen to them. All are poor, and many have had difficult lives marred by family violence, addictions, criminal records, illiteracy, and so on. It illustrates her holistic approach to improving people's lives.
However, she is not only the stand-back supervisor of this program. She has worked as long and as hard as any volunteer on the team. She has always been willing to do the behind-the-scenes "grunt work" such as baking muffins, cleaning the kitchen sink, packing goodie bags of food and treats during the pandemic when in-person gatherings were impossible, and gathering jackets, boots and socks to keep the folks warm and dry.
Penny's warm welcome and big smile are much appreciated by the guests; she was lauded as "simply amazing" by one recent recipient of her kindness at the church hall. She has often helped folks outside of the formal hours of the program, e.g. talking with them on the telephone, driving them to medical appointments, helping them find a lawyer, file their income tax, or look for an apartment in a city where affordable housing is hard to find.
Some people have a big heart for the poor and the homeless, but Penny Ericson follows it up with concrete action, fund-raising, and hands-on efforts. She is a most deserving candidate for the Order of New Brunswick award.
The Order of New Brunswick celebrates the individuals who have served the province, its people and communities through a high level of excellence and achievement in their field. Since the first ceremony was held in 2002, over 190 New Brunswickers have received the award.
Penny and her fellow recipients will be invested with the Order of New Brunswick on November 2, 2022, in a ceremony at Government House in Fredericton.
-- by Ann Deveau
Read the press release from the Province of New Brunswick.